A day in the life of a Chef Man

Shari – Sushi Rice Recipe

The most important  technique in the preparation of sushi is how to make sushi rice, that is called ‘shari,’ ‘sushi-meshi,’ or ‘su-meshi’ (vinegar[ed][cooked]rice), in its best condition, and that depends on how perfectly mix-up the cooked rice and vinegar-mixture (awase-zu) together deliciously.

The taste of sushi greatly depends on the taste of sushi rice. It is often said that the rice part shares as much as 60% of it, according to the opinions of many sushi chefs.  The key factor is the ‘shari’  itself, as well as fish (sashimi) quality.
There are some certain and easy know-hows in preparation of the sushi rice at home.

How to select rice:

It does not much depend on the quality of the rice, such as ‘Koshi-hikari’, one of the best and most expensive brands, or ‘Sasa-nishiki’, usually the second and expensive one, those are ideal japonica species for usual daily diet in Japan, but they are sometimes said to be less suitable for sushi-rice, because of their much sticky characteristics.
The most important  factor in selecting a short-grain (japonica subspecies) white rice is how much that brand is capable of absorbing the water in nature, which in turn corresponds to how much the vinegar is soaked by the cooked rice. Because the degree of the vinegar penetration into the rice plays a greater part of the taste of sushi rice, and it effects whole sushi taste consequently.
By this reason, it is not always necessary to use a new rice (‘shin-mai’) which is relatively abundant in water-content, but an older, long-stored rice (‘ko-mai,’ i.e. one year old) is rather suitable for ‘shari’ owing to lesser water content.  Many sushi restaurants use their own mixture of these two kinds with a ratio of more than 50% of ‘ko-mai.’

How to cook rice:

Washing (Polishing):At first, flush with abundant water and stir to wash out dust and dirt or offals 2-3 times.  Roughly drain the water off and wash (polish) the rice surfaces by scrubbing the grains each other gently, and rinse.  Repeat this about three times.
Pre-immersion:Add and adjust the water with less than the normal measuring for the daily cooking (1 : 1.2 – 1.3 vol.,) i.e. to around 1 : 1.1 by the volume of rice, because an adequate ‘awase-zu‘ liquid is added (as much as 10%) to the cooked rice afterward.  Keep for a half an hour in summer (26 °C / 79 °F water) to one and half an hours in winter (5 °C / 41 °F water), for the absorption of the water.
Heating (cooking):An electric rice cooker is the most recommendable way to cook today.  After the heating is completed, let the rice leave in the pot and steam for a while (ca. 10 – 15 minutes) without opening the lid.  This waiting time is very important  for a delicious cooked rice.

How to vinegar the cooked rice:

Do not wait a minute after the cook.  Rice vinegar (‘kome-zu/yone-zu’) mixture (‘awase-zu’) should be prepared 30 minutes before the use for good dissolving of the ingredients, with the following Basic Recipe (if possible, with ‘kombu’ (kelp), and/or either a little of sake or mirin – sweet cooking rice wine.)  Add salt to vinegar first and warm it up for a better dissolving and secondly sugar.
(By the way, sugar was never used in the very former times at all, but no one does so today.)

Mixing technique:

The most important and critical point is the temperature of the cooked rice, which is the key factor how much the vinegar can penetrate into the rice grains, and this is the crucial process in the preparation and getting the utmost taste of the sushi rice.

(°C / °F)
As soon as the rice has been cooked, replace it in a ball or plate and spread (sprinkle) the vinegar mixture over the rice still it is well hot (at 90° C,) and mix it to every rice grain completely by using spatula with a movement of ‘cutting action,’ with all possible care not to smash the particles to get sticky (for 1 minute is enough.)
Only after completing the mixing (at 70° C,)
again replace and/or spread the ‘shari‘ on a wider plate, preferably in a
wooden vessel (uncoated ‘sushi-oke’ or ‘hangiri,’) which can absorb excessive
sweat, and fan the ‘shari’ to evaporate unnecessary moisture
on the grain surfaces (for 1 minute is enough.)
To get a maturation of the ‘shari,’ cover with a clean damp towel
and leave for a quarter of an hour to cool it down, then it will be ready
for sushi making (Nigiri) at 30° C – this temperature is also a key factor of a delicious sushi.

A Practical Example:

This is a typical example for a small sushi party, for 2-3 persons.  It takes about two hours or more in total from the beginning.

How to make Nigiri by hands:

Use ‘Te-zu’ (hand-vinegar, vinegar for hands, some diluted vinegar solution thinned with water by 1:2 or 1:3) for moistening your hands.  Also it is advisable to warm up cool down your palms at the same or preferably below the temperature of the shari in order not to stick much.
Do not grasp and press shari and fish too tight, and try to introduce much air space (hollows) in the rice.  Also at the same time, be sure and try not to get them be aparted each other easily! (a contradictory story, but it the true technique for a better taste of sushi.)
The ways of hand-forming of sushi are actually named, Te-gaeshi, Tate-gaeshi and Kote-gaeshi (‘-gaeshi’ suffix for ‘kaeshi’ means turning the sushi rice ball.)
A delicious, hand-formed shari (now ‘nigiri’) and fish never broken down when picked up with chopsticks, and at the same time, pieces of rice never fail to get loosed until in the mouth.

credit to http://homepage3.nifty.com/maryy/eng/shari2.htm

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